History of Munnar

Modern day Munnar was carved out after a sequence of historic events. It is said that the Muthuvan tribal community were the earliest residents of modern day Munnar. The area was left untouched and unexplored until the latter part of the 19th century when a flurry of plantations came up in the area.

John Daniel Munro introduced the world to Munnar in the 1870s. He came across the place by accident. As the British Resident of Travancore kingdom, he was called in to solve a border dispute between Travancore and its neighbour Madras. He fell in love with this new found area immediately. Though the Munnar region fell under the jurisdiction of the Travancore kingdom, it was the jenmam (birth) land of the Poonjar Royal Family. Since it was a 'jenmam land', the royal family enjoyed absolute powers over the land as the landlord. Munro convinced the royal family to lease the land to him and started transforming the area. Munro formed the North Travancore Land Planting & Agricultural Society in 1879. They started the cultivation of crops, including coffee, cardamom, cinchona and sisal in various parts of the region.

Tea would replace everything else in the region soon enough with A.H. Sharp being the first to do so. Sharp planted tea in around 50 acres of land at Parvathy, which is now part of the Seven Mallay estate. In 1895, Finlay Muir & Company (James Finlay and Company Limited) entered the scene and bought 33 independent estates. The Kannan Devan Hills Produce Company was formed in 1897 to manage these estates.

Disaster struck the area in 1924. The monsoon that year was particularly bad. Heavy landslides and flooding destroyed the terrain. Many lives and property were lost. A lot of effort went into restoring the estates. It took the inhabitants a while to start re-planting the area. The Tata Group entered the area in 1964. They began collaboration with Finlay which resulted in the formation of the Tata-Finlay Group. Tata Tea Ltd. was formed in 1983. In 2005, the Kannan Devan Hills Produce Company Pvt. Ltd. was formed and Tata Tea transferred the ownership of its plantations to the new company.

The tourism industry redefined Munnar in the latter part of the 20th century. Its natural beauty and rare flora and fauna started attracting people in large numbers. A number of hotels and resorts came up and soon, word about Munnar spread across the world. Today it stands at the forefront as one of the most popular tourist hotbeds on the planet.




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